Made in Chelsea; Real Housewives of Cheshire; The Only Way is Essex; Great British Bake Off; The Apprentice; Strictly Come Dancing; X Factor.
Throw in a few pizzas and bowls of pesto pasta and there you have a week in the life of a twenty-one year old.
We pile into our student lounge sporting various combinations of tracksuits, pyjamas and onesies and settle down for an hour of becoming a little too emotionally invested in the lives of others. We all cheered on Ollie Locke as he put JP in his place on the Henley river bank. We all giggled like school-girls when Selasi piped that icing. We all screamed in outrage when Sharon Osborne decimated the Over 25 category at Judge’s houses. Reality TV continues to be an ever growing phenomenon. But why?
It was not all that long ago that I was spending my weekends at the beach. I was staying out until highly unsociable hours of the morning. I was going to cool clubs with fancy cocktails and swimming pools in the back. I would sit in a room full of girls and spend hours gossiping about people we knew. Living our own dramas. It was not that long ago when a night in front of the TV would have been a welcomed blessing after the never ending birthdays, socials, special events and catch-ups. Now, almost every night of the week I stare enviously at a screen and watch people getting paid to do those things.
I wonder out loud who Nicole Scherzinger is dating, rather than focusing on my own, slightly lacklustre dating scene. I have reached that unfortunate stage in life when reality TV has become my personal reality.
We all know that in recent years there have been many questions raised about how healthy social media is. I know I can’t be the only one whose parents have banned phones at the dinner table. Kate Bush once requested that her fans refrain from filming her show because if people wanted to watch it through the screen of the person in front of them, then they would have stayed home to watch it on TV. We are rapidly breeding a culture of people who struggle to enjoy anything until they share it with the world.
When I was a child, popularity was determined by your Top Trump skills in the playground. Today, ‘likes’ are the new symbol of status. Smart devices and social media have opened up a whole new sphere of connectivity, and not everyone is happy about it. I would argue, however, that we cannot reasonably throw our arms up in exasperation at this and not reality TV. How is it fair to ask someone to look up from their phone and stop talking to their friends in order to spend some quality time with you watching the lives of complete strangers unfold? At least through social media we are, for the most part, keeping in touch with people we know. I once had a friend use my snapchat to check up on her ex. I have known relationships to start through an Instagram. FaceTime is a revolutionary concept that enables me to regularly see friends and family who live on the other side of the world – people that I would otherwise only see every few years. Whilst we may not quite be able to call living through a screen ‘reality’, in my opinion it is certainly more deserving of the title than say Joey Essex or Amy Childs.
My solution? TV dramas! More often than not they give us far greater role models: Aspire to be as witty as Chandler Bing, as successful as Dr Grey, find a love like Marshall and Lily’s. But most importantly, know that they are all fiction and that the best life to live is your own.